Tale of a Starbucks Card

As readers of this blog know, I believe Japan is the closest place to paradise. I often extol, among other things, the superior customer service experience in Japan. But not all is rosy in paradise and occasionally the Japanese propensity to be a stickler for details can be frustrating.

I have written about Japanese Form Fetish and the inefficient aspects of omotenashi. The following true story is another good example of such frustration.

A colleague of my wife’s left his Starbucks card behind after buying coffee. He called the shop and got a barrage of questions. Not being fluent in Japanese, he asked my wife to call again and check if the card has been found. When she called, the Starbucks employee told her the card was found and handed over to the police. So far so good. This is standard practice; Japanese police stations double as lost & found centers. Unsurprisingly, with the rise in tourism to Japan in recent years, business has been booming

So my wife calls the police station, and this is where Japan’s obsessiveness with details and bureaucracy kicked in.


She was asked when and where the card was lost. Not generally, but exactly what time and exactly where in the store (as if one can tell where one has lost an item). Having satisfied those questions, not without some difficulty, she was then asked to describe the card. The description given wasn’t detailed enough, so she was asked to describe the different colors on the card and whether there was any text on it, and where exactly on the card the text appears. My wife and her colleague had to go online, check the Starbucks card website for card designs, and describe the card in detail. Then she was asked for the exact amount left on the card. Luckily, my wife’s colleague checked his balance recently, so the answer was close enough to satisfy the police.

Once the third degree investigation was over, my wife’s colleague went to the Starbucks store to fill out several forms. These forms will be taken to the police station and, if all is in order, the card will be handed over to the Starbucks staff and then he will be called to come and take it.

All very nice of course, because in most other countries he could have kissed the card goodbye. On the other hand, it’s all rather exhausting…


One thought on “Tale of a Starbucks Card

  1. Pingback: Lost Property | Nafka Mina

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